Sunday, December 5

What to do about Russell Westbrook’s rocky start with the Lakers



Russell Westbrook has now played 10 games in the Lakers uniform.

The results? A bit unstable.

Westbrook has had a couple of great performances, the highlight so far being a 33-point outing in a road win over the Spurs, but his 10-game averages stand at 19.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists. with 41.8 percent shooting from the field. . It’s the fewest points he’s averaged since his sophomore season and his true shooting percentage, a metric that encompasses all 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws, is at its highest. low on his career.

There’s still plenty of time for Westbrook to find his groove, but a few things have jumped out of his first 10 games of the season.

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1. The short roll can be Westbrook’s best friend

As I wrote after Westbrook’s debut with the Lakers, it will be fascinating to see how the Lakers use him when he shares the floor with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Parking Westbrook in the corner is clearly not the answer due to his shooting limitations. (More of that in a minute). One way around this is to use him as a blocker on pick-and-rolls, especially when LeBron is in control of the offense.

LeBron has been separating teams with inverted pick-and-rolls for years now. Westbrook can’t eliminate switch mismatches as easily as Kyrie Irving or pick-and-pop the 3-point line as easily as Kyle Korver, but he is still a tremendous athlete and elite passer, the combination of which he gives the tools to do damage on the short roll.

We were able to test Westbrook’s potential on the short run down the stretch of the team’s win over the Grizzlies.

More of that, please!

2. You can only work with what you have

There are a couple of reasons why we haven’t seen more of that. The first is that Westbrook has never been particularly active off the ball. The second is Westbrook, LeBron and Davis haven’t played much together.

Throughout 10 games, the three have shared court for a total of 113 minutes. The Lakers have been paralyzed in those situations, with a net rating of 0.9.

A more troubling sign is that the Lakers have been a mess when a member of their Big Three has sat down. The Westbrook and Davis lineups without LeBron have a net rating of -8.4, the Westbrook lineups without LeBron and Davis have a net rating of -9.6, and the LeBron and Davis lineups without Westbrook have a net rating of -8.7.

So three of those combinations have been negative so far and one has only been slightly positive.

Lakers on / off combinations (PBP statistics)
Players on the courtPlayers off the courtMinutesOffensive ratingDefensive ratingNet valuation
Russell Westbrook and Anthony DavisLebron James133107.17115.57-8.4
Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis113109.02108.130.9
Russell westbrookLeBron James and Anthony Davis6491.91101.46-9.6
LeBron James and Anthony DavisRussell westbrook4497.78106.52-8.7

We are still working with some small sample sizes, but the fact that none of them have been able to go live is not ideal yet.

3. The Lakers are not the Lakers yet

To complicate matters, the Lakers have missed a total of 44 sets due to injury so far this season, placing them only behind the Magic (47) in most of the league.

In addition to LeBron’s lost time, Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza, who have important roles on this team, have yet to play this season. Wayne Ellington, who could be the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter, also missed the first eight games of the season with a hamstring injury.

Having everyone back won’t solve all your problems, of course, but it sure would help to have a complete list. It is difficult to really know what to do with this equipment until it is in tip-top shape.

4. Shooting is a problem

Captain obvious here.

Westbrook, a 30.5 percent career 3-pointer, has started the season shooting 11-of-41 (26.8 percent) from 3-point range. He has had trouble shooting at the reception and moving around, going 7 out of 23 (30.4 percent) in catch-and-shoot triples and 4 of 17 (23.5 percent) in pull-up 3s. More concerning is that 32 of Westbrook’s 41 3-point attempts have been opened, according to NBA.com, which means that his closest defender was more than two meters away.

In case you’re wondering, each of Westbrook’s remaining three-point attempts have been “wide open,” meaning his closest defender was four or six feet away.

ONE PLAY: Westbrook’s debut sheds light on the team’s biggest obstacles

Then there are possessions like this:

Westbrook has been much better from the mid-range (40.5 percent), but it’s a shot teams are always going to live with taking if it means he doesn’t make it to the basket.

5. What is Buddy Hield doing?

Do you know who can shoot? Buddy Hield.

Shortly before News broke that the Lakers were close to acquiring Westbrook from the Wizards, it was reported who were moving forward to complete a deal to acquire Hield.

Hield is far from a perfect player, but he is an elite 3-point shooter. Through nine games with the Kings this season, he is averaging 10.7 3-point attempts and hitting them at a rate of 41.7 percent. Time will tell if he can keep shooting that well in that volume, but will join some elite company if it does.

As long as Westbrook is fighting and Hield turns off the lights, the trade that didn’t happen will continue to emerge.

6. Turnovers are also a problem

It’s worth noting even though Westbrook has delivered the ball at a high rate for a long time.

Westbrook now has 4.9 turnovers per game in the Lakers uniform, which is tied with James Harden for the highest rate in the league. He coughed the ball 10 times in a loss to the Thunder and had an additional nine turnovers in their win over the Grizzlies.

MORE: Breaking Down Westbrook’s 10 Turnovers Against Thunder

Westbrook also committed a costly fumble in the Lakers’ other loss to the Thunder.

Again, this is nothing particularly new with Westbrook, but it does point to something bigger. Adjusting off the ball alongside LeBron and Davis was always going to be tricky due to the aforementioned limitations. If you’re struggling to score and create efficiently with the ball in your hands, it’s hard to imagine this trio being good enough offensively to make a deep run.

7. Free throws are hard to come by.

Westbrook’s free throw attempts are very low this season. He’s also struggling to convert them when he gets there.

His free throw attempt rate, the number of free throws he attempts per field goal attempt, is at 23.6 percent, his career low, and he has made 62.8 percent of his free throws, the minimum of his career.

Free throw attempts are down overall to start this season, but it’s something to watch out for in Westbrook’s future.

8. This will require some patience.

After a big loss to the Trail Blazers in which he scored eight points on 1 of 13 shots from the field, Westbrook spoke about the situation he is in.

“I’m just trying to figure it out you know?” he said. “It’s what I do. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done for the last four or five years. Try to find out. I’m coming to a new team, trying to make the best of the situation and being the player that I am, and I like to find ways to do what is best for the team, whatever the coach asks of me.

“But with that it is always a struggle to make sure that I am able to be who I am supposed to be on the court and that is to do everything and play as hard as possible. And I have to do that for our team and I did not do that tonight. but that’s something that I’ll make sure to do in the future. “

9. We have seen this story before

To add to Westbrook’s postgame commentary, one hopeful sign for the Lakers is that he got off to a slow start in his previous two stops.

In his first 10 games with the Rockets in 2019-20, Westbrook averaged 21.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists with 45.3 percent shooting from the field and 22.4 percent from three-point range. He finished the season averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists on 47.2 percent shooting, earning him an All-NBA Third Team selection.

In his first 10 games with the Wizards in 2020-21, Westbrook averaged 18.9 points, 9.6 assists and 9.3 rebounds on 38.1 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range. He finished the season averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game, the fourth time in his career that he averaged a triple-double in an entire season.

The Lakers can only hope that Westbrook’s trend of improving as the regular season progresses continues.

10. The routine continues

In his first 10 games, Westbrook faced players like Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Damian Lillard. For the next 10, he will face LaMelo Ball, Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, and Jrue Holiday, to name a few.

It’s not going to be any easier for Westbrook and the Lakers any time soon, especially if LeBron continues to lose time and Davis continues to deal with ailments.




www.sportingnews.com

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